jul 28

design century

 The new issue of Metropolis just arrived today. The theme is "Great Design Ideas for the 21st Century," including essays by Dave Eggars (colorful buildings), Bruce Sterling (assembly swarm factories), John Maeda (new media pedagogy), and Lawrence Weschler (in-and-out architecture). But I had the most fun with a page dedicated to the 20th Century's Worst Design Ideas. Here's their list:

CD jewel case, leaf blowers, dsigner infant-wear, the 18-wheeler, Olestra, Smell-O-Vision, midcentury urban "renewal," the butterfly ballot, cliff-hanging houses in mudslide territory, car alarms, coach class airplane seating, the proposed WWII memorial in D.C., big-box retail, the Styrofoam fast-food "clamshell," the Ford Pinto's exploding gas tank, cute cell-phone rings, toy guns, TV satellite dishes, TV remote controls, TV, premoistened toilet paper, gold courses in the desert, car-towed billboards, Atlanta, nurses' uniforms, the design story as museum (and vice versa), the PT Cruiser, offensive sports-team mascots (i.e., Cleveland's Chief Wahoo), the lawn ornament (especially jockey holding the lantern), DDT, SUVs, snowmobiles, jet skis, ATVs, useless Olympic villages and going into debt to build them, four-car garages, pop-up and pop-under Web ads, 1960s multi-purpose stadiums (and the artificial turf they inspired), genetically modified "Frankenfoods," Botox, vinyl siding, the girdle, Michael Jackson, the Portland Building, John Portman buildings, the Millennium Dome, cloning, the dismantling of L.A.'s Red Car trolley system, the erasable pen, the self-consciously "funky" dot-com office, anything in iMac colors, Clippie, McMansions, casinos and aquariums as downtown "revitalization," the Pruitt-Igoe public housing project, dropped ceilings, fluorescent lighting, accordion buses, stiletto heels, one-hand foods designed for driving (i.e., the "sealed taco"), the 7-11 X-Treme Gulp (a 52-once soda), New Coke, Modernist corporate plazas, Memphis (the design collective, not the city), strip malls, nuclear power plants, celebrity architects, the $50 million retail space (i.e., Soho Prada), the Star Wars missile defense system, tearing down Penn Station to build Madison Square Garden, the urge to build the tallest building in the world, the Titanic, proposing self-serving fantasies on the site of a mass grave.

What a crummy design century it was.

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